Interview with: Vassilis Vassiliades
Vassilis Vassiliades was born in Nicosia/ Cyprus in 1972. He studied painting at the Pietro Vannucci Academy of Fine Arts in Perugia, Italy, where he graduated in 1996. He lives in Nicosia and has been working as an art teacher since 2002. He has solo exhibitions and participations in many group exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad. He has lectured at several conferences in universities, cultural associations and art events on issues related to culture. Since 2016 he is the Curator of the Larnaca Biennale, the only Art Biennale organized in Cyprus. He has collaborated with newspapers and art magazines and hundreds of his articles have been published on various websites.
Welcome Vassilis , I would like to start this interview from the beginning, do you remember which artist or which artwork moved something inside you when you were a child? How has this approach and references changed growing up?
I suppose I could tell various stories about this, but the truth is there is neither one artist nor one single artwork that have left their mark on my childhood. My relationship with art was limited to a habit of spending a lot of time drawing – which, after all, is the case with so many children across the world. The choice per se to delve into art was something of a surprise to those around me but probably to me as well. It was an important decision, taken at a formative moment that went on to subvert several givens of my life.
And then? How have your approach and references changed growing up?
The most substantial change in the way I perceive and experience Art occurred when I went to Italy to study. There, I realized that if creativity is not constantly filtered through awareness, then it remains strictly personal, and a strictly personal work of art is something that has never appealed to me. Also, the process of demythologizing artists had a positive impact on me. Art was no longer something of sole interest to a specific group of people, the so-called connoisseurs. It became a natural experience, a primal need that concerned everybody; a social phenomenon engaging all citizens, just like it has always functioned in the heyday of different civilizations in human history
How would you describe your practice to someone who doesn't know you? What are the recurring elements, themes, concepts?
There are some features that almost always appear in my artworks. First of all, I don’t make it a habit of intervening much into things; I don’t remold or alter the image of objects nor do I change their initial role in the narrative of the artwork. My approach to this practice is somewhat more classical. The rope ties, the cloth dresses, the key opens and the candle sheds light. I simply transpose them, combine them together and let them interact as they exchange energy and the memories they carry within.
I’m not interested in time. My works have a timeless character, which often leads me to static, “frozen” images. By contrast, I am very much taken with space, which I consider to be the main ingredient of our existence. Only space remembers; time forgets. Space can host synchronicity: it is familiar with infinity and the absurd, concepts that “linear” time is not equipped to process.
I am concerned with transition, the crossing – both as a concept and as motion. I am striving for the return of the unexplained in Art as one of the main ingredients of creation which has been sadly sacrificed at the altar of Newtonian realism and our need for rationalized answers and tangible evidence.
Usually, each artist has a different modus operandi. Which one is yours? How did your projects start and how do they develop?
Even though I am prompted by specific obsessions as a creative artist, I don’t constantly create. I am in need of long periods of calm because, to me, artistic creation is a battle. Every once in a while, I need to stand back and take a better look at things; otherwise, I become consumed without cause and without essence. Most of the times, the idea, even before actually forming into an idea, hits me at the exact moment when I least expect it. I have taken great pains to avoid being stunned. So, this is more or less how the whole process is kicked off. Only much later do I reach the stage of materialization, after I have first struggled with the work in my mind. But I always leave it up to the objects themselves to decide on the final details. There’s always a spot for randomness in my works.
What function do you attribute to your works and why?
My artworks neither impose themselves, nor do they annoy or challenge. They simply exist quietly ad imperceptibly in space. Prima facie, they might even seem unremarkable. This is actually done on purpose; it derives consciously from my view of things. It is a worldview that turns into a specific aesthetics that enables things to find their way into the soul of the spectator.
Art is not a medium of expression; art is expression. This is why I never reduce my works to vehicles of social commentary or protest. I try to move the spectator through the aesthetics of the artwork and not by opting for a sensitive albeit ephemeral social topic. I am not one to feed the illusion that Art can solve social problems.
Nevertheless, I do think that there is a kind of dialogue going on between the spectator and my works, and this dialogue is structured along a series of unanswered questions. Think about Zeno’s paradoxes, as a man keeps scampering across a gap but never quite catches up